SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For years, our KELOLAND News Investigations have exposed problems in our state prisons, from unsafe conditions to crowding to high staff turnover.

Now a review of the facilities, commissioned by the state, confirms all of those issues and offers suggestions on how to strengthen the Department of Correction’s operations.

KELOLAND Investigates obtained the CGL Companies report on the prison system through a public records request.

According to the review by the California company, keeping staff is the most critical issue facing our prisons.

The vacancy rate of correctional officers is nearly 30%, which contributes to low morale, and according to the report, is “unsustainable.”

Suggestions to fix the problem include starting pay of $20 an hour and an across-the-board pay raise for existing employees of 6%.

One of the worst issues, according to the report, is overcrowding in the Women’s Prison in Pierre. In fact, the reviewers said it was the most crowded female correction institution they had ever seen. The majority of the facility was triple-celled.

The women’s work release center was tripled bunked with 6 to 9 women crammed into small rooms or cell areas

The review supports Gov. Kristi Noem’s proposal to build a 208-bed community work center for female inmates in Rapid City.

The report also says the DOC needs to be reorganized to operate more efficiently, including adding an inspector general who reports to the secretary of corrections, for more oversight.

The state commissioned CGL Companies at a cost of $166,000 last summer after Gov. Kristi Noem received an anonymous email that listed problems of sexual harassment, favoritism, nepotism, lack of proper safety equipment, low morale, inadequate pay, and reduced benefits in the DOC.

The Noem administration fired the warden and other officials and the Secretary of Corrections stepped down.

In 2020, the state commissioned a correction system master plan, which includes 18 projects at a cost of $608 million, including a new State Penitentiary, which is currently based in Sioux Falls.

Additional KELOLAND Investigates stories on the DOC: